The President got this one wrong. Since the dawn of commercial Internet access during the Clinton Administration, light-touch regulation has guided its development and explosive growth. It has helped encourage continuous innovation, spur massive investment, and provide consumers with new services and applications in a competitive digital marketplace. The choice is clear: we can stay the course and promote 21st century technologies or turn back the clock and return to a 20th century, Title II-regulated utility model at the expense of the American consumer.
Our new white paper, “Bringing the FCC’s Lifeline Program into the 21st Century,” calls for fundamental reform of the Federal Communications Commission’s existing Lifeline Program to provide access and enhanced consumer choice to 21st Century broadband services for the nation’s low-income consumers.
“The FCC’s Lifeline Program is a 20th Century government program aimed at spreading a 19th Century technology, voice service. It’s time to start a new conversation in Washington on how best to provide America’s low-income communities with greater access to 21st Century broadband communications services.”
— former Congressman, and Honorary Chairman of IIA, Rick Boucher
In our report, we highlight how this antiquated, cumbersome and complex program currently perpetuates a market imbalance that obligates only wireline telephone providers to participate and maintain the administrative systems and processes required to operate the program.
We recommend streamlining the program to provide the flexibility necessary to broaden participation among various communications providers to help bring the benefits of competition to low-income consumers — more innovation, better service, lower prices—while also lowering administrative costs. One step toward attaining this goal is to transition the current program toward a voucher model, by providing eligible consumers with a “Lifeline Benefit Card” that empowers them to purchase a range of communications services, including broadband, wireline or wireless voice services.
Today, service providers determine the eligibility of consumers for the Lifeline subsidy. The white paper recommends that, given the economic incentives that service providers have to increase enrollment, eligibility determinations for Lifeline benefits and core program administration oversight should be performed by a governmental agency rather than by communications service providers.
Our report offers the following recommendations on how best to modernize and transition the Lifeline program so that it can help ensure next-generation broadband access for low-income consumers:
1. Bring the Lifeline Program into the 21st Century by making broadband a key part of the program’s rubric;
2. Empower consumers by providing the subsidy directly to eligible people instead of companies;
3. Level the playing field between service providers to broaden consumer choice and stimulate competition for their purchasing power;
4. Safeguard and simplify the program by taking administration away from companies that are not accountable to the American public, instead vesting that governmental responsibility with an appropriate government agency.
“Only five percent of U.S. consumers still rely solely on the antiquated, circuit-switched telephone network for their communications needs. This trend is reflected in the FCC’s Lifeline Program, with 80 percent of its dollars currently going to wireless carriers.
As consumers abandon their wireline telephones for modern broadband services, the Lifeline Program — adopted during the 1980s — should be modernized and upgraded to reflect the realities of the current IP-based world. Expanding the program to focus on broadband, and simplifying its administration to welcome participation by more service providers, will help millions more Americans access modern communications services.”
— former Congressman, and Honorary Chairman of IIA, Rick Boucher
We’re excited to announce we’ve added another stellar name to our Broadband Ambassadors. Kristian Ramos is a Public Relations Strategist with experience working with both the House and Senate. His most recent gig was with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Earlier this week, Ramos penned a piece for the Huffington Post on the need to update the 1996 Telecommunications Act. Here’s an excerpt:
Our new younger and ethnically diverse populations are already interacting with broadband in a huge way. For example according to Nielson, Hispanic consumers adopt smartphones at a higher rate than any other demographic group and watch more hours of videos online and on their mobile phones than the average American. But we need them and other segments of our new America to engage more in the opportunities that broadband technologies provide.
In order to ensure that these new broadband apps and services continue to benefit consumers, Hispanics or otherwise, one aspect must be addressed - what is the proper regulatory framework that should be in place to provide the best incentives for creators to innovate and for carriers to build out nationwide all broadband networks? How do we reach more of our diverse nation?
Check out Ramos’ full op-ed at the Huffington Post.
We’re excited to announce a new video series we’ve put together that we’re calling “Let’s Get Nerdy.” The goal is to take tech policy issues that are currently top of mind in our nation’s capital and explain how they are relevant to Americans across the map. With a series of questions, an expert will guide us through a deep-dive into the topic of the month.
For our first installment, we interviewed a lawmaking legend (who also happens to be our Honorary Chairman), former Congressman Rick Boucher. Congressman Boucher was a key participant in the construction of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and here he answers three questions about a huge initiative being spearheaded by the House Energy & Commerce Committee to update the Telecommunications Act to reflect the technology of today.
Ready to get nerdy? Let’s go!
At the Silicon Flatirons conference, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler shared this excerpt from the book Digital Crossroads. “When, in 1996, Congress last enacted major revisions to the [Telecommunications] Act, it did not clearly foresee the rise of broadband Internet access services, let alone their eventual centrality to all forms of electronic communications.” What did the market look like in 1996, and how has it changed?
In a recent editorial for The Hill newspaper, you pointed out that most consumers — essentially, anyone who has a cellphone or who gets telephone service from a cable provider — have already made the switch to 21st century high-speed broadband networks without government action. What role can Congress and the FCC play to accelerate and complete the so-called IP (or Internet Protocol) Transition?
The IP Transition is fundamental to the mobile revolution of which we’re all a part. Consumers have proven that they have an insatiable thirst for wireless services that run on the limited, invisible airwaves known as spectrum. As it looks to update the Telecommunications Act, what can the House Energy & Commerce Committee do to help ensure that carriers like T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint have the spectrum needed to keep up with consumer demand?
Our thanks to Congressman Boucher for sharing his unique perspective on regulatory modernization as a key architect of the ‘96 Telecommunications Act. Until next time, stay nerdy!
Says FCC-monitored trials will bring the nation one step closer to completing the transition to 21st Century modern broadband-enabled communications networks
WASHINGTON, D.C. – January 30, 2014 – Responding to today’s Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) action to “authorize voluntary experiments to measure the impact on consumers of technology transitions in communications networks,” the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) today issued the following statement:
“In launching a national framework for local trials of state-of-the-art broadband networks, the FCC ushers in the dawn of a new era of expanded consumer benefits and increased economic growth. Accelerating the ‘fourth network revolution’ will help unleash consumer benefits in education, healthcare, energy, business and rural development.
“We applaud the FCC’s new framework that enables stakeholders to address—in an open and transparent manner—the challenges posed by the nationwide move to next-generation broadband networks and creates an opportunity to establish consumer protections to ensure we ‘leave no one behind’ and pave the way for an easy and rapid transition for America’s consumers and businesses.
“We hope that, in the days ahead, the FCC’s vision for local market trials will mean more rapid deployment of next-generation networks that provide new broadband choices, better products, services and devices with enhanced functionality. Upgrading the nation’s communications infrastructure will fuel our economy, maximize investment and promote America’s global competitiveness. Conducting geographically-limited, closely-monitored IP demonstrations with consumer protections in place will build on the momentum of two-thirds of American households already choosing to live in an all-IP world.”
IIA Urges FCC to Move Forward to Approve “Real-World Trials” to Accelerate Transition to High-Speed Broadband Internet Services across America
Says regional market trials will provide FCC with evidence to develop forward-looking, pro-investment, pro-consumer policies for build out of next-generation, IP-enabled networks and services
WASHINGTON, D.C. – August 7, 2013 – The Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) today issued the following statement based on its Reply Comments to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) request for input on the proposed “real-world trials” designed to advance the transition toward nationwide consumer access to next-generation Internet Protocol (IP)-based networks and services:
“Local market trials provide the next step toward speeding the modernization of America’s legacy telephone networks. Initiating market trials for IP network deployment would continue innovation and enhance economic growth resulting from the deployment of next-generation technologies. The Commission’s principal focus should be on how high-speed broadband networks should replace antiquated telephone networks and how market trials can contribute to the development of a new regulatory model that promotes broadband growth, increases subscribership and maintains fundamental and essential consumer protections.
“Real-world market trials offer the best means for assessing the costs and benefits of accelerating the IP Transition and should not be used to help advance certain outmoded business models. Fear of theoretical and unproven harm to certain competitor business models dependent on never-changing regulatory mandates is simply not a compelling reason for inaction. The trials represent a unique window of opportunity to gather information to ensure that the IP Transition will occur with minimal disruption to consumers.
“Market trials should proceed under the same lighter regulatory framework applied to other rapidly-proliferating IP networks, rather than the outmoded and shrinking TDM-based networks. Any market trial should enable IP-based networks to demonstrate their capabilities and the impact of the transition on consumers subject to the same real-world environment in which all other IP networks currently operate. A regulatory hand applying pressure on the scale and conditioning the trials toward certain outcomes is, of course, a prescription for trials that will not be truly scientific and will fail to achieve their basic purpose. Just as we seek to avoid locking in old technology, such as the rotary phone or dial-up Internet service, the nation cannot afford to permanently lock-in old rules that would ultimately harm innovation, job creation and economic growth.”
This morning, IIA held a roundtable on technology and education with keynote speaker Joshua P. Starr, Superintendant of Montgomery County schools in Virginia.
Among the attendees were representatives from the Committee for Education Funding and online learning organization Apollo Group, which is the parent company of the University of Phoenix. Also attending was Lynh Bui of The Washington Post, who filed a report on the event.
Yesterday, IIA partnered with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and the Digital Policy Institute to host “X-Factors of Tech Policy Today: Keeping Pace in the Broadband Race.”
Participating in the discussion were:
• Ralph B. Everett, Esq. – President and CEO, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies
• Robert Yadon, Ph.D. – Director, Digital Policy Institute
• Barry Umansky, J.D. – Senior Fellow, Digital Policy Institute
• Rick Boucher – Former Congressman; Honorary Chairman, Internet Innovation Alliance
• Maurita Coley, Esq. – Vice President and COO, Minority Media and Telecommunications Council
• John Horrigan Ph.D. – Vice President and Director, Media and Technology Institute, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies
• Louis Peraertz, Esq. – Legal Advisor, Wireless, International and Public Safety, Office of Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon C. Clyburn
After Ralph Everett welcomed the crowd and made introductions, Robert Yadon kicked things off by highlighting struggles in the state of Illinois to fully take advantage of technology as a driver of economic recovery. By increasing STEM graduate rates and creating a climate of entrepreneurship, Yadon argued, Illinois could greatly benefit. “States with a solid fiscal policy, light regulatory touch, and educated workforce are most attractive for business and investment,” Yadon said. “The same is true at the national level.”
During the panel discussion, moderator Barry Umansky went right at the issue of spectrum:
One key element of the IP transition is global wireless, which depends upon spectrum. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice suggested that in the upcoming incentive auctions, limits be imposed on the ability of the larger wireless carriers to participate. Why is or isn’t this a good idea?
Tackling the question, our own Rick Boucher highlighted the fact that mobile data services are growing at five times the rate of the national economy. “This is a consumer issue,” Boucher said. “Consumers have the right to assume that carriers will be able to meet increasing demand.”
Boucher also warned that limiting participation from some carriers would negatively impact more than consumers, stating:
Government needs revenue from the incentive auctions in order to build out the first responder network. Broadcasters have also been promised revenue from putting forward spectrum for auction. The more bidders included in the process, the more revenue will be generated, and the more broadcasters will be willing to provide spectrum.”
All the panelists agreed that freeing up more spectrum for wireless as especially critical for minority and economically disadvantaged communities, which are embracing mobile broadband are a rapid rate. As Minority Media and Telecommunications Council Vice President and COO Maurita Coley put it:
Policies should encourage moving forward with auctions and bringing spectrum to market, and ensure that minority entrepreneurs have the opportunity to participate in auctions. The FCC has the ability to ensure that minority and underserved consumers are not left behind.
The other hot topic during the discussion was the coming transition to all-IP networks. As Umansky asked the panelists:
The FCC Technical Advisory Committee, formerly headed by Chairman Nominee Tom Wheeler, has recommended that the FCC take the steps necessary to sunset the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) by 2016. What are the policy implications of a near-term sunset for broadband deployment and consumers?
In response, Rick Boucher pointed out that current regulations are getting in the way of progress:
While only 25% of customers remain on [the PSTN] network, carriers are forced by law to maintain 100% of the old networks, and the cost of carriers maintaining older networks is the opportunity cost of investment in the new ones.
Boucher also encouraged the Commission to help speed up the transition to all-IP networks. “Consumer interest must be regarded as an informed priority,” he said. “A faster sunset will mean a faster delivery to consumers of services over modern networks.”
Back to the topic of competition, a member of the audience asked what the FCC’s ideal number of players was for a competitive marketplace. In response, Peraertz said:
For [Acting FCC Chairwoman] Mignon Clyburn, there is no set number of players. We look for ways to take a more detailed look at wireless market structure and promoting access for low income and underserved communities.
These were just some of the many highlights from what turned out to be a lively and highly informative discussion. If you’d like to watch the entire event, archived video is available here.
Late last week, the FCC’s Technology Transitions Policy Task Force announced it was issuing Public Notice seeking comment on proposed “beta” trials to transition America’s networks to all-IP. Below are reactions to the announcement from IIA leadership.
From Honorary Chairman and former Congressman Rick Boucher:
”The FCC’s recognition of the importance of the move from TDM to all-IP networks is a welcome building block, but it’s disappointing that comprehensive IP transition trials have not been authorized. Only through a comprehensive examination can potential issues be identified and addressed and consumers be protected.”
From Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman:
“The Commission is steering in the right direction, but traveling at the wrong speed. Fully committing to all-IP networks would bring the greatest benefits to consumers and best-equip America to compete on a global scale. Baby steps won’t keep pace with technology.”
From Co-Chairman Jamal Simmons:
“The three areas on which the FCC seeks comment are all important pieces of the puzzle, but instead of a piecemeal approach to figuring out challenges with the IP Transition, the Commission should quickly adopt a holistic strategy, including well-defined trials in designated wire centers, to bring broadband-enabled benefits in health care, education and entrepreneurship to all Americans.”
We applaud the FCC’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that seeks to explore the possible future release of frequencies in the 5 MHz band for Wi-Fi.
As more Americans continue to depend on the anytime, anywhere advantages of mobile technology — the nation faces new opportunities and challenges in making next-generation services more widely accessible to the public. Explosive growth in wireless broadband services continues as consumers’ demand for the latest mobile devices, services and applications increases the need for additional spectrum in the wireless market. Government must take a multi-pronged approach to alleviate the imminent spectrum crunch to advance the benefits of wireless broadband for all Americans.
Allocating the 5 GHz band for unlicensed Wi-Fi devices makes sense, given that it provides limited geographic coverage to avoid radio frequency interference. Consumers stand to benefit from this unlicensed spectrum through increased speeds and decreased congestion at a variety of locations including airports, Internet cafes and community anchor institutions across the nation.
Beyond this proceeding, the FCC should move quickly to launch its incentive auction to unlock additional spectrum for high-speed wireless broadband for both licensed and unlicensed spectrum use to maximize the benefits for America’s businesses and consumers.
Today is the second annual Digital Learning Day, which highlights the use of technology to support teachers and how children are benefiting from technology in the classroom. You can find more information on this important event, including activities around the country, on the Digital Learning Day website.
The bridge between technology — especially broadband — and education has long been a passion of IIA. Last summer, we hosted this webinar with Kramer Middle School principal Kwame Simmons on broadband and education:
And in October, an op-ed by Simmons — based on what was shared during the webinar — was published by the Washington Post on how his school achieved a high-tech turnaround. From the piece:
At the end of the 2011-2012 academic year, Kramer logged barely double-digit scores on the D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System (CAS): 17 percent proficient in reading and 26 percent proficient in math. The school had a much-warranted bull’s-eye on its back. But after a year of planning and a three-year School Improvement Grant and two-year Race to the Top grant from the U.S. Education Department, we have high hopes for change. Our secret weapon and education equalizer? Broadband.
Most recently, our 2013 Broadband Guide featured information on how IP-based networks are improving education in a variety of ways. From page 7 of the Guide:
Thirty-two states have virtual schools delivering online courses to students in any district in the state, according to Evergreen Consulting. In the United States, 75 percent of school districts offer online courses in K–12 education, and student enrollments are growing at a rapid pace of 30 percent annually, reported the Sloan Consortium.
Our Co-Chairman Jamal Simmons has penned an op-ed for The Root on the coming transition to all-IP networks and what its effect will be on America’s still lingering digital divide. Here’s a taste:
Putting smart policies in place to promote the IP transition would help address these concerns. With the right incentives, incumbent telephone companies could invest in and build faster, more robust and more dynamic IP-based networks that would provide residential customers with additional competitive choices for video, high-speed broadband and voice services. Accelerating the IP transition would also have the positive effect of shifting the cost burden of maintaining antiquated, legacy voice networks away from voice subscribers in communities of color, who would disproportionately have to pay the costs of maintaining outdated networks without the benefit of access to new services provided by next-generation networks being built at the same time.
The vast majority of network upgrades and day-to-day operation of the Internet are overseen by private businesses, universities and organizations. Yet governments — domestic and international — continue to exert influence over the environment in which the Internet evolves. To provide the next generation of policy makers and leaders with the information they need to make informed decisions about Internet policy, IIA today released the “IIA 2013 Broadband Guide for the 113th Congress,” a 21-page handbook with six major sections complete with answers to common questions, definitions of technical terms and background on the importance of the Internet Protocol (IP) evolution. The Guide is being issued in conjunction with the 2013 State of the Net Conference,at which IIA founding Co-Chair Bruce Mehlman will speak today at 2:05pm ET.
“Few American innovations have changed the world more profoundly and positively than the Internet. Today more than 2.5 billion people are connected to the Internet and have access to information and opportunities that did not exist 20 years ago. It’s critical that policy makers be well-informed as they make decisions affecting the Internet in order to promote and encourage the expansion of Internet investment, access and adoption.”
The Guide also includes broadband-related data points such as:
• Over the past three years, American smartphone adoption has increased from 16.9 percent to 54.9 percent, according to Nielsen.
• One out of three American homes now relies on wireless-only technologies, according to the U.S. National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).
• The tech industry added nearly 100,000 jobs from January to June 2012, a 1.7 percent increase, according to TechAmerica Foundation’s Competitiveness Series.
• As of April 2012, 66 percent of American adults had a high-speed broadband connection at home versus 11 percent a decade earlier in March 2002, according to Pew Research.
• The app economy, which didn’t even exist five years ago, now employs more than 500,000 Americans, according to research by Economist Michael Mandel.
“Innovations in broadband technology are not exclusively relegated to the wired world. Today, mobile devices act as general-purpose computers, complete with nearly 1.5 million available apps. Massive amounts of data are necessary to operate these mobile devices, and the future of lightning-fast, mobile communications depends on migrating America’s communications networks away from outdated legacy phone line networks and toward IP-based infrastructure.”
This Wednesday, May 2, IIA will be hosting an Internet Academy on Capitol Hill called “20 Years Later: Are We Winning or Losing the Spectrum War?” Featured speakers will be Bret Swanson of Entropy Economics, Morgan Reed of the Association for Competitive Technology, and our own Co-Chairs Bruce Mehlman and Jamal Simmons.
The event is from 12:30-1:30 PM EST. We’ll have a full report on what is sure to be a lively discussion afterwards, but you can follow along in real time on Twitter via the hashtag @IIAAcademy.
To see the results in a cool interactive, click on the feature above or head here. You’ll also find our methodology, along with an embed code. Our press release on the study is available in the Press Room.
Our thanks to the SBE Council for their help in putting this together.
(cut and paste below to include this graphic on your blog)
This Thursday, February 23, TechAmerica will be holding a Congressional Briefing on Spectrum Allocation and Rural Development at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. The participants are Jonathan Adelstein, Administrator of the USDA Rural Utilities Service; Dr. Anna-Maria Kovacs, Visiting Senior Policy Scholar for the Georgetown University Center of Business and Public Policy; Phillip Junker, Executive Director-Strategic Alliances for Verizon Wireless; and Pete Ihrig, Senior Vice President of CGI.
Live in D.C. (or the surrounding areas)? Interested in technology and telecommunications issues? If so, you’ll want to check out tomorrow’s National Journal Policy Summit at the Liaison Capitol Hill Hotel. Titled “Technology 2012 and Beyond,” the summit features our own Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher and Co-Chair Bruce Mehlman, along with former IIA Co-Chair Larry Irving. Moderated by the National Journal‘s Bruce Gottlieb, the event also features Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Vice Chair Lee Terry, Ambassador David Gross, and Antoinette Bush of Skadden’s Communications Group.
Registration opens at 7:45 am, with the event itself starting at 8:15 am. It promises to be an insightful look at the effect of the 2012 election on tech and telecommunications policy (not to mention a real wonkfest). For more information and to RSVP, visit the National Journal’s website.
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